Friday, Sept. 30, 2005 | 8:48 a.m.
What: "We Will Rock You."
Where: Paris Las Vegas' Le Theatre des Arts.
Rating (out of five stars): ****
Although it is by no means a shadow of its former self, "We Will Rock You" lost some of its charm and meaning when writer Ben Elton whacked 30 minute off the two-hour production, chopping it down to fit the standard Vegas format of 90 minutes.
It has been said that the decision for the incision by the author's scalpel was made by Harrah's executives after Paris Las Vegas became part of the Harrah's family.
Perhaps they felt the operation was necessary for the survival of the show, that the two-hour length was not drawing enough fans.
Or perhaps they were merely looking at the bottom line -- get the fans out of the theater as quickly as possible so they can spend more money in the casino or the restaurants.
When it premiered more than a year ago at Paris Las Vegas I thought the Queen-based musical was almost perfect.
To begin with there were the 20 songs, including "Radio Ga Ga," "I Wan to Break Free," "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," "Fat Bottomed Girls," "Another One Bites the Dust," "We Will Rock You," We are the Champions" and "Bohemian Rhapsody."
The superbly crafted satire was full of humor, social concerns and developing relationships.
The story takes place in the distant future, focusing on the two lead characters, Galileo and Scaramouche, who fall in love and begin a mission to save the world from the pastel environment that has chocked out rock 'n' roll.
The plot is anti-establishment, a rebellion by Bohemians who are trying to preserve their own identities in a drab world of sameness.
Galileo and Scaramouche's mission takes them to Las Vegas, a mostly submerged city, and then to Graceland, a decaying mansion in Memphis where the holy grail of instruments -- an electric guitar has been entombed in a brick fence.
Elton did the best he could under the circumstances, cutting 30 minutes of dialogue and preserving the music.
The streamlined version of the musical races through the story at supersonic speeds.
It is still a fun show, but the loss of so much dialogue cut into some of the spirit -- in the early version there was conflict between Galileo and Scaramouche as their relationship developed.
That has been lost.
Some of the exposition by the Pop character is gone.
So is some of the wit.
The most troublesome thing about the edited version of "We Will Rock You" is the irony -- if it is true that the show's producers were forced to make cuts then the production has fallen victim to the very establishment the musical preaches against.